Want to know what to eat?

We have already seen the importance of calorie counting. Now we have to transfer that count to the food intake.

At this point, let’s look at the calorie content of foods.

In spite of all this flood of information on calorie requirements, I have come across this question, ‘Do we have to count calories’? Let me reiterate that calories are just a measure of the energy content of foods and they are a guideline to your intake and expenditure of energy. Do we not depend on weather reports for the environmental temperatures, the thermometer for body temperature, other heat regulators in ACs, microwaves, cooking ranges and ovens? Consider calories in foods, just like those. You do not carry around a body thermometer and measure your temperature constantly. Once you are aware, you do not need to measure all the time, do you? Similarly, it is good to know the calorie content of foods that you use frequently which will help you to choose your food carefully.

The nutrients in food that give us energy are: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The foods that provide maximum energy are those that are high in carbohydrates and fats. High-protein foods are not used as an energy source because they contain nitrogen products, excess of which, have to be excreted from the kidneys. This overworks the kidneys, leading to other complications.

The energy content of

  • 1 gram of carbohydrate is  4 Kcals
  • 1 gram of protein is  4 Kcals
  • 1 gram of fat is 9 Kcals

The body cannot store energy as there is a limited amount circulating as blood glucose and a small amount stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. After the energy needs are met, the excess is converted to fat and is stored as fat in the fat deposit areas of the body. This is the main reason why we should not over eat. Whether we like it or not, the body will automatically store the fat!!

Given below is a Ready Reckoner of foods providing an overview of the major nutrient content of the foods in their own groups. These are only average values and can be used as a guideline for quick calculations.


Sl No Food Quantity
1 Cereal A
Bajra, maize, wheat, oats
50 6 2 34 175
2 Cereal B
Rice, raw and parboiled, rice flakes, ragi
50 3 39 170
3 Bread – one slice 25 2 13 60
4 Pulses – dal, grams 50 12 1 30 175
5 Potato, sweet potato, yam, colocasia 100 2 23 100
6 Green leafy vegetables 100 3 7 40
7 All other vegetables 100 2 8 40
8 Fruits 100 1 14 60
9 Banana – medium 70 1 19 80
10 Egg – one 45 6 6 80
11 Fish, chicken 50 12 0.5 50
12 Flesh foods 50 10 3 65
13 Milk, cow’s and dairy 100 3 4 4 65
14 Ghee, oil – 1 tbsp 10 10 90
15 Butter 25 20 180
16 Sugar, jaggery, jam, jelly 10 10 40
17 Biscuits, sweet – 3 25 1 4 18 110
18 Biscuits, salt – 3 25 1 8 14 130
19 Ice cream, big 70 4 9 15 160
20 Soft drinks- aerated, sweetened – 1 bottle 25 100

Compiled by Malathi Mohan

Further details including the calorie content of some prepared dishes will be discussed in the next article.

Any questions?

(To be continued)

Malathi Mohan

Ms. Malathi Mohan is Dean, Academy of Fitness Management, FitnessOne, Chennai.

This is the third of a five-part series on calories by nutrition expert Malathi Mohan.

Click here to read last week’s article: Are calories necessary for health and fitness?

Check this space for more on nutrition every Wednesday